Asked if they are excited to learn another language, the answer by students across the North Bellmore School District is simple – “Si.”
The district relaunched its Spanish program this year, with regular instruction for fifth and sixth graders at the five elementary schools, as well as a kindergarten enrichment program. Spanish teacher Kristen Giris incorporates Spanish language and culture into her lessons. Early topics have included the Spanish alphabet, numbers, greetings, feelings, holidays, the calendar, weather, colors, shapes, family members, classroom objects and adjectives.
“To get students engaged in learning language, I like to make the class fun,” Ms. Giris said. “I incorporate a lot of games, pictures, choral repetition, songs and movement. Language in meant to be spoken and we work in groups and pairs frequently.”
Spanish culture is an important part of her lessons. Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated annually from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, gave Ms. Giris an early opportunity to integrate Spanish customs into her instruction. Students also learn about the history of Latin American nations, famous Hispanic people and points of interest in Spanish-speaking countries.Music frequently plays in the background during class.
Students say the Spanish skills they are developing now will help them in middle school and beyond. Martin Avenue Elementary School fifth grader Kendall Cava said the vocabulary sheets provided by Ms. Giris help her memorize words. Her favorite assignment was a research project on famous people from Spanish-speaking countries and she chose Celia Cruz, the Queen of Salsa.
Kendall said that learning Spanish will help her communicate better with several relatives. Sixth grader Rex Dietrich, whose great-grandfather hails from Argentina, enjoys connecting with his Hispanic heritage. He appreciates that Ms. Giris spends most of class speaking Spanish, not English, which helps him learn the language better.
“It’s important because around this age, we’re going to start meeting people who speak other languages, and one of the most popular languages is Spanish,” Rex said.
Kallyx Agpalo fondly remembers an activity about feelings. Working with a partner, one student would say an emotion in Spanish, and the other would match it to a card with a picture of that emotion.
Sixth grader Shiba Das loves learning other languages and about other countries. He has already been overseas with aspirations to travel to even more places, so he knows that knowledge of any language will be a great benefit.
Madison Badillo, a sixth grader, said she looks forward to speaking with her grandfather in Spanish. She has particularly enjoyed studying Hispanic culture and liked writing poems inspired by a tradition from the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead.
“It’s a really good opportunity for us because we get to be exposed to Spanish before we go off to middle school,” she said.
Madison plans to continue with Spanish in middle school to master the language, while other students say they’d like to use the spark that was lit this year to add a third language to their repertoire. Kallyx explained that he is thinking about taking French or Italian next year because it’s good to learn multiple languages and be able to communicate with many different people.
Fifth and sixth graders receive one 40-minute block of Spanish per six-day cycle. The kindergarten enrichment program is designed to expose the children to the language at a young age, focusing on basic vocabulary and phrases. Ms. Giris described the classes as fun and communicative, with lots of singing and games.
“Learning languages at the elementary level provides a huge benefit for students,” Ms. Giris said.“At a young age, they are more inclined and open to trying new things. Research shows that when students begin language learning at the elementary level, they are able to pick up languages faster with more native-like fluency and a higher level of proficiency. A language is a bridge to understanding and an appreciation of differences in a rapidly diversifying world.”
Date Added: 11/15/2022